Next up on the 2022 F3T Behind the Lens… “Cicada Hatch.” Every 17 years, there is an insect hatch of biblical proportions … Some call them red eyed cicadas, some call them periodical cicadas, and others call them 17-year locusts. No matter how you refer to these giant terrestrials, everyone only has a few opportunities to fish this hatch during their lifetimes. Join Matt Devlin of Western Pictures on this personal journey from Montana to Maryland.
Flylords: What drove you to capture this?
Matt Devlin: I learned to fly fish during the summer of the last emergence. I remember that I missed it by a matter of weeks or months. As I continued to become more involved in fly fishing, and more knowledgeable in insect entomology, I came to realize how awesome it would have been to trout fish during that cicada hatch. I continued to hear stories about how that influx in biomass during the 2004 cicada hatch created the glory years for Maryland trout fishing. People would always reference that hatch and the following years as a time when the fish grew faster and larger than any other year class. It’s always been a keen memory in the back of my mind that I had locked away until 17 years later. It’s amazing how quickly those years went by… 2021 was here before I knew it, and this time I was ready to do whatever it took to experience it.
Flylords: How did the hatch compare to your best hatch experiences?
Matt Devlin: I was a fly fishing guide in Missoula, Montana for 11 years, so I’ve experienced quite a few hatches in my life. With that being said, this cicada hatch was right there at the top of my list! I’ve never experienced anything like it before. It’s such a unique bug considering that it’s terrestrial, but it ends up in the river in mass quantities. And the fact that its emergence only happens every 17 years makes it extra special. Everything about it is weird and wonderful. The noise kinda gets under your skin. The sound, the visuals, the emergence. It’s intense.
Flylords: What is something unique to fishing the 17-year cicada hatch?
Matt Devlin: In fly fishing, time spent on the water, observations, and building on your knowledge base is how you get better. But, what’s unique about the 17-year cicada hatch is that nobody is an expert. The hatches are so far apart, that there is a lack of information about how to fish for them. It was a fun challenge to navigate the unknowns and make it happen on my own terms.
Flylords: What is a tip that you can provide to anglers looking to fish this hatch in the future?
Matt Devlin: One of the biggest things I learned while fishing this hatch is that you have to be patient. The peak of the hatch will be different across geographic zones. The time you want to be fishing is probably a little later than you expect because it takes time for the insects to hatch, then it takes more time for the fish to recognize what the food source is (remember, they haven’t tasted these bugs for 17 years, so usually, never). Additionally, the river corridor is on a different hatch schedule than the surrounding space. It could be going wild just off the river corridor, but until the hatch really gets going down by the river it’s not time yet.
Flylords: Are you planning on heading back for the next one?
Matt Devlin: I will certainly be returning to fish the hatch for as many years as I can. It’s become a very meaningful part of my life. It’s an interesting way to look at your life and check-in. It’s a chance to evaluate your life and think ‘this is where I was when that hatch happened,’ so on and so forth. I was one and half when it emerged in the late 80’s, I was of age in 2004, I was prime for this past hatch, and I’ll be in my early 50s for the next. It’s a way to keep a timeline of your life in general.
Flylords: What message are you hoping viewers walk away with?
Matt Devlin: More than anything, I hope that this film inspires people to live life now. This film certainly inspired me to do that… I was so close to not going back for a second shot at fishing the hatch, but I’m so glad I did. Experiences are priceless, and I thought ‘will I regret going or not going more?’ It was some of the most incredible and restorative fishing that I’ve ever experienced.
Follow along with the film tour @flyfishingfilmtour on Instagram.